Fencing: Amita Berthier wins foil title at Junior World Cup in Cuba, eyes Asian Games spot in 2018

Singapore's foil fencer Amita Berthier (right), poses with coach Ralf Bissdorf after winning the Junior World Cup title in Havana. The 17-year-old is the first Singaporean to win a title in the eight-leg series. PHOTO: UMA BERTHIER

HAVANA - Foil fencer Amita Berthier created history on Sunday morning (Dec 17, Singapore time) when she became the first Singaporean to win a Junior World Cup title in the sport.

The teenager, who turned 17 on Saturday, beat Canada's Naomi Moindrot-Zilliox 15-9 in the final to win the Havana Junior World Cup.

She won all her five matches in the poules before beating Canada's Jane Caulfield 15-9 in the Round of 16.

The world No. 13 Singaporean then beat Venezuela's Anabella Acurero Gonzalez 15-10 in the last eight, and Chinese Taipei's Tsai Xiao-qing 15-5 in the semi-final to reach the last two.

Amita, who won a SEA Games gold in August in Kuala Lumpur, said: "This win bring a nice close to 2017. I began my season with a bronze at the cadet world championships and celebrating my 17th birthday with this gold medal makes me absolutely happy being the fencer that I am.

"Havana is simply charming. Meeting fencers from the various countries and winning a Junior World Cup just a day after my birthday is a wonderful gift to myself and to my coach (Ralf Bissdorf) for being on this journey with me.

"I'm completely motivated and inspired to keep working hard and to scale bigger milestones ahead.

"For 2018, I my focus is on the Asian Junior Championships and to try and qualify for the Asian Games. I will work hard and look forward to the competitions in 2018."

Her previous best result in the eight-leg Junior World Cup series was a silver in Guatemala in November.

Her coach Bissdorf noted: "Amita has been exceeding expectations this whole year and winning in Havana caps off a wonderful season for her.

"I'm proud as one can be as her coach and never doubted her discipline and dedication to the craft, and Amita is well aware this is a long journey and she is committed to this path.

"At the SEA Games in August, I spoke of her target of reaching the top 15 in junior world rankings. She will end the year in the top 10, which is great, and we want her to stay in the top 10 by the end of the season.

"Amita has just turned 17, so our focus in the coming year would still be on Junior (Under-20) competitions, with emphasis on February's Asian Junior Championships in Dubai.

"And more importantly, she has shown it is possible for a Singaporean fencer to win and that will instil in her the belief that she belongs on the world stage."

Minister for Culture, Community & Youth Grace Fu was thrilled for Amita. Ms Fu wrote on Facebook: "Congratulations to birthday girl Amita Berthier for creating history by winning Singapore's first Junior Fencing World Cup Gold medal at Havana, and ending a successful 2017 with a bang!

"Well done & Happy 17th Birthday, Amita!"

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